This is another edition of Short Starts, where we present a weekly short film(s) from the start of a filmmaker or actor’s career.
While the new comedy The To Do List just opened in near-wide release, it’s not playing everywhere. For those of you who can’t go see it yet, I offer you a little alternative in the form of 2007’s The Jeannie Tate Show. It’s not the official short start for either Aubrey Plaza (who had already appeared in Killswitch and In Love) or writer-director Maggie Carey (who’d helmed the short PBS doc Sun River Homestead and a few short comedies, including Jenny Clone with her then-soon-to-be husband Bill Hader). It’s not even technically a short so much as a web series made up of very short episodes. Still, it’s fun to see the beginnings of a relationship that would eventually lead to now-famous Plaza starring in Carey’s narrative feature debut.
On the show, Plaza plays the teen daughter of title soccer-mom-turned-talk-show-host Jeannie Tate (played by co-creator Liz Cackowski, who is also in The To Do List). And yes, she’s a brooding, cynical, ungrateful young woman. But her voice sounds a lot different than it does now. In the first episode, Jeannie Tate, who does her talk show out of her minivan, welcomes her first guest, Bill Hader, as himself (Hader is also in The To Do List, by the way). Rounding out the cast as Plaza’s father is Brian Huskey (who, you guessed it, is also in The To Do List).
It’s a cute and funny parody of where the Internet is/was taking amateur programs of this sort and is based on both Carey and Cackowski’s own mothers — the character’s name is even a hybrid of their mother’s names). Now, of course, we see real-life awkward interviews — like the one with Bruce Willis the other day and another with Jesse Eisenberg early this summer — so it’s almost too plausible to entirely be appreciated as a joke anymore.
Below, watch the first episode for an early look at Plaza, still a couple years from breaking through with Mystery Team, Funny People and Parks and Recreation. You can find other episodes of the short-lived series on Carey’s Vimeo page, including those with guests Rashida Jones (Plaza’s future TV series co-star) and Rob Riggle.